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Thompson: Small Town Scandal with Big Implications

PoorOklahoma is in a mess created by its new A-F School Report Card. 

Since its grading system is based on Jeb Bush's and Florida's report card, its flaws are of national importance. 

The more interesting story, however, is the suspension of the Ryal School System's superintendent -- which grew out of the report card controversy.

The Daily Oklahoman joined the chorus of laypersons and scholars criticizing the A-F Report Card. It also showed that schools' grades were almost completely the result of their demographics.  For instance, schools earning an "A" had an average low income rate of 33%, while schools earning a "D'" had an average rate of 85%. The paper cited the Ryal district as a rare exception.  Although 100% of Ryal's students are low income, and although 40% of them were on special education IEPs, it earned a "B."

Now, Superintendent Scott Thrower has been suspended, and the Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has called on him to resign.  The patrons are upset about the newspaper article praising the district's efforts to overcome generational poverty.   The public is angry over Thrower's description of alcoholism, meth labs, and families without electricity or shoes. “The vast majority of our kids live in houses with electricity," it was argued, "They do have shoes." 

It has been nearly five decades since Daniel Patrick Moynihan was condemned for using the phrase, a "culture of poverty."  Education is about the only part of our society that has not moved on. In lieu of undertaking honest conversations about what it would really take to overcome the legacies of generational poverty and trauma, education wonks still dismiss reality-based school policies as "excuses," "low expectations," and "blaming the victim." 

As Paul Tough explained in How Children Succeed, the contemporary school reform movement grew out of a "liberal posttraumatic shock" due to losing the War on Poverty.  We will continue to fail to improve poor schools, however, until we are capable of discussing the reality of extreme poverty.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.


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